Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sinchon - (Korea) Day 29

A photo of our dinner that we cooked at our table in Sinchon

Today I got to work on time, but I was the last one there. I have to make sure I get there 10 minutes early, which is when they expect you to show up…I was only 3 minutes early. I went straight to work in the "secret" conference room today. I've been in this room before doing some minor stuff, but today I was actually in charge of the computers running the slide shows. Not a big deal, but I was flying solo and there are a bunch of generals on the other side of the screen so I was hoping nothing went wrong. There are actually two computers I worked off of. One is unclassified and one is "secret". The secret computer is on an entirely secure network. Every computer item in the army is labeled with a green sticker that says unclassified or a red sticker if it's secret. Helps remind everyone what is what. The conference went off without a hitch.

I took off and met the rest of my crew in the office. Our other big plans for the day were to remove all the Christmas decorations from the common areas around the building. These guys don't waste any time. Most people leave their decorations up through the new years and I've seen some that leave them up through January and longer. Here though we take it down right away!

Special K was walking around like a robot all day. He hurt his back skiing or snowboarding I believe. He's on pain medication, but it didn't seem to be helping him too much. Hopefully he'll feel better after the holiday break. He's 40 so I keep an eye on how he manages because I'll be there soon.

After work our sergeant was feeling a little tired and with Special K hurt they decided not to have PT at the gym. I went anyway and did a little work on my abs and chest. I'll have to get down to business in January so I can make sure I pass my next PT test which I was told will probably be in February.

When I got back to the room I could barely keep my eyes open for some reason. I was so tired. After a brief video chat with my wife I took a much needed nap. I awoke to SPC Roy calling and asking if I wanted to go out tonight. I had told him earlier that I wanted to get off post whenever possible and check out what Korea has to offer. Looks like we'll be seeing more than just Itaewon (the district right outside the gates of Yongsan).

As I was getting ready there was a knock on my door. To my surprise SPC Short was outside the door. He had done a mail run for the offices and I had a box and a letter at the post office. He delivered it to my door which was very cool of him. I got a letter from my grandma and a box from my wife filled with all kinds of goodies. Looking forward to drinking the chocolate macadamia nut Kona Coffee! I had some samples of some of the stuff, but I don't want to ruin my appetite for dinner tonight on the town.

SPC Roy came and picked me up at the barracks. We took off to an area of Seoul called Sinchon. It has a number of restaurants and bars and a lot of people on the street. It's far enough away from the base that it's not full of army personnel. We went to a little hole in the wall restaurant. There were a number of tables very close together and people were smoking inside. We sat down and we were offered a bag to put clothes in. I was told the smell of the place can stick to your clothes after you leave, so they offer the bag to protect your clothes from the smell. lol. I wasn't sure what was going to go on because my co-worker was speaking Korean to the waiter, then all of a sudden he brings a bunch of food to our table and fires up this little cooking device. We cooked our own food at the table which was pretty cool. We also shared a bottle of soju (a popular Korean drink made from rice that has 20% alcohol). The food was like very thick pieces of bacon. We also threw on some onions and some kimchi to cook as well. When the food was cooked we grabbed pieces of each, dipped the pork in some sauce and put it all in a lettuce wrap and ate it. It was very tasty. The soju was pretty good too. It goes down pretty smooth. I didn't put any of my clothes in the special bag and I didn't put on the apron that was at our table either, but I did enjoy the whole experience.

Our next stop was going to be a bar across the street, but it was full. We found this was the case with a number of bars there until we came across a place called "The Beer Zone". We got a pitcher of beer and fries. We talked about life in the army. Korea is SPC Roy's first assignment too, but he's been here for almost 4 years because of a number of circumstances which is very uncommon for a junior enlisted person. We had a good time and a lot of good conversation. As with any good time out drinking there comes a point when you have to go pee. I searched out the bathroom and found it was located outside the bar down some stairs. To my surprise it was just a urinal and it had a window on the door to the outside stairs. I was able to go pee and watch people come and go from the bar…and I guess they could watch me go pee too. Sometimes it can feel strange going pee in another country.

When we were about to leave SPC Roy called a special number for a service person to come give us a ride back to the base. He made a call and a guy came about 5 minutes later and drove SPC Roy's car with us in it to the base. This is similar to a taxi service, but for people who have been drinking so they do not get tickets. When we arrived at the base, we paid him and he hopped out of the car and walked away. Not sure where he went or how exactly the service works, but it sure seems like a great idea. We didn't have to worry about any DUI which is the important thing.

My roommate is gone for the weekend…so now it's time to sleep in.

Snow Day - (Korea) Day 28

A quick photo I took of the snow from the door to my barracks
(didn't go outside with only slippers on)

This morning I woke up as normal and took a quick shower and shaved. What I didn't notice when I got out was that I had already missed 4 calls! Holy cow. I grabbed my iPhone and started checking twitter which I use to keep up on the news both here and back home. I saw a couple of alerts for Yongsan stating that road conditions had been red (which means an O6 or higher needs to sign off on you driving a government vehicle) and were currently amber (which I believe means that you should only drive if it's very important - my interpretation). I still expected that I would be going to work though, I'd just have to safely make my way down the slick road on my feet as usual. I was eating my pop tarts and brewing coffee when my phone rang. SPC Roy was calling me to tell me that as far as him and our sergeant were concerned….The Base Is Closed! Don't come into work, just be available on standby until noon just in case. OK…no problem!

I put these links on my Misc Links page, they are what I check out for notifications and news about Yongsan post.


Yongsan: http://www.facebook.com/youryongsan

USO Korea: http://www.facebook.com/pages/USO-Korea/118439231514980


Yongsan: http://twitter.com/USAGYongsan

USO Korea: https://twitter.com/usokorea

US Army: http://twitter.com/USArmy (Not Yongsan, but generic US Army info)

This meant it was going to be a lazy day. I did some SkillPort (Rosetta Stone) and a lot of video chatting with my wife. Because of the time difference we don't usually get to talk this much. Sometimes we even do other stuff while video chatting, but just having each other on the other end is a nice way to feel close. I watched the movie "Inception". Wow what a mind trip! The movie is about dreams and our perception of reality. It was a pretty cool action packed movie. When I first saw the previews I didn't know if it was a movie I wanted to see. It seemed a little too far out there, but after watching I would say that it was a great movie and I would recommend it to anyone. It keeps you guessing at the end…but for those that haven't seen it yet, I'll leave it at that.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Going Solo - (Korea) Day 27

The stash of goodies my KATUSA roommate gave me 
after he came back from the four day weekend

This morning I woke up at 6:45 to get to work by 8:30. That gave me plenty of time to get ready, make some coffee and video chat with my wife for a bit. Technology can be so cool! We are working half days again this week. The only thing I really did today was actually my normal job…imagine that. I setup the conference room for a meeting and got all the equipment up and running. The only difference is this time I did it all solo. I had to hang out in the control center for the entire meeting switching slides and slideshows when asked. After the meeting I cleaned up and that pretty much wrapped up the entire days work.

I did get a couple of boxes in the mail from my mom and a Christmas card from my in-laws. All Christmas presents which I was happy to get. I had been wondering if they would ever arrive. I had never received mail yet, so I had no idea the time frame it takes for a letter or package to get from the states to Korea. Turns out it takes a little over a week. I receive all my mail in the office, there is no postal box or anything at the barracks.

After work I came back to the barracks to change clothes into work-out clothes. I also grabbed a PB&J sandwich for a quick lunch. I then went and played basketball with my sergeant and after I beat him two games he kept wanting to play until he won one. He gave up after I beat him 5 times in a row.

After working out I was able to video chat with my wife for quite a while. For dinner I had a pizza pocket, but I also tried the Cheetos my roommate brought. They were unlike any Cheetos I've ever had. They were BBQ flavored. I wouldn't say their my favorite, in fact I wouldn't ever purchase them instead of the normal flavor. They were still good enough to finish the bag, don't get me wrong…I just hope the other snacks turn out a little better.

Watched a movie tonight called "Team America World Police". Not normally a movie I would watch, but I've heard so many people talk about it over the years that I had to see what it was all about. It's a puppet movie, but definitely for adults. In fact there is even a sex scene in it…yes the puppets are doing it. It was pretty dumb for the most part. It did make me laugh a few times, but I wouldn't recommend seeing it for anyone. Not one I'll be keeping for the collection.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Weekend Wrap-Up (4-Day) - (Korea) Days 23-26

Me, the young hawaiian, and a buddy of his for our 
Christmas dinner of orphaned soldiers here in Korea

Thursday: Didn't do a lot today which felt kind of nice. I got a call from school at a little after 10:00 AM to get my classes and everything setup. I had to go through the online enrollment and such. I'm so glad to finally get the ball rolling on this once again. I will now start classes on January 11th.
After that I just listened to music and relaxed for the better part of the day. I was able to video chat with my wife for a long time as well. Then the young hawaiian sent me a message via Facebook saying that he was here in Korea. We met up and hung out for quite a while at the food court, then I came back to show him what my room looks like. I also let him borrow a copy of the original Tron movie because we are planning on watching the new one at the movie theatre tomorrow. He was full of questions just like I was when I got here. I answered most of them, but each unit is different and because my job is so different than what I think a normal 25B job is he may find things different when he starts. He's excited though and says he already loves it here. He's already talking about staying for 2 years through AIP. (If a soldier signs up through AIP they agree to stay for a longer term and get paid an extra $300 a month for doing so. You can choose either 2 or 3 years instead of the mandatory 1 year).

Friday (Christmas Eve): It's Christmas Eve…didn't realize it until I saw someone post it on Facebook. Being here in Korea without family makes it just another day, but at least I don't have to work. I met up with the a terminator from basic (who also went to AIT with me…we'll call him PVT Pickle) and also the young hawaiian at the food court. We hung out there for a bit and then went to the movies to go see the new Tron. After watching the original last night it was pretty amazing to see how far movies have come with special effects. They were able to make Jeff Bridges look 20 years younger for one of the characters in the movie. Everything else was well done too. I thought the movie was pretty good, but because of all the hype it's been getting everyone else thought it was just OK because their expectations were set a little too high.

When we left the theatre it was 16 degrees out! We quickly made out way back to the barracks. I ate in mine while the others went to the DFAC. Later on the young hawaiian called and asked if I wanted to play a little basketball. I can never turn down a game of basketball…good PT and it's fun too. I also had to show the kid this old man still has a little game left in him. We ended up playing 21 with a few other guys that were at the gym. It was getting late so there weren't too many people there. I guess that and it happens to be Christmas Eve.

After playing my feet felt like they were on fire. When I got back to the barracks I found out why. I had two big blisters that popped on my feet. It's a little hard to walk around now. I think I may need to get some real basketball shoes instead of playing in my running shoes!

Saturday (Christmas Day): It sure doesn't feel like Christmas. No Christmas music, no tree, no decorations, no family. I can relate to those who get depressed around the holidays. Here in Korea without family it's just another day. Like every other Saturday I woke up and did laundry. I did a little Rosetta Stone and then video chatted with my wife for a while, then took a nap. I woke up and listened to some music, then went to dinner with the young hawaiian and one of his buddies. We decided we should go out and have a nice Christmas dinner since none of us had family here. The dinner was a buffet at the Black Angus on base and it was awesome!

Sunday: A pretty lazy day. I had thought about heading straight to the PX and picking up a space heater. The heat in the barracks just stopped working for some reason yesterday. All it would do was blow out cold air. This morning it started to work again so I'll put off the purchase for now…and it's $42! It's so cold out it just seeps into the room and it gets quite cold, but at least I can layer with my clothing and there is no wind blowing.

I did purchase a pair of basketball shoes though. The running shoes just weren't cutting it. My feet were pretty messed up! I was able to video chat with my wife and her family a bit today and then had the young hawaiian come over and visit for a bit. After that I watched a few movies "Never Back Down" a good flick for any MMA or UFC fans out there...kind of like a modern Karate Kid, then "A Nightmare on Elm Street". I remember seeing the original so many years ago and having it scare the heck out of me. This one goes back to the beginning and shows how Freddy Krueger became the monster he is now. It was OK, but nothing to keep for my collection. Plus my wife doesn't care too much for horror flicks.

My KATUSA roommate came back tonight after going home for the entire four day. He also brought with him a huge stash of Korean snack food. There are all kinds of chips, cookies, and top ramen type dishes. I'm so looking forward to trying them all out, but dinner tonight was a pizza pocket in the microwave…and some licorice for the movies!

Tomorrow is back to work for short days and a short week.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Get That Outta Here! - (Korea) Day 22

A view outside of the barracks that I live in

Last night I watched "Repo Men". I wasn't expecting much from the movie except some action. The plot was a bit unbelievable…repo men taking back artificial body parts from people who couldn't afford to pay for them any more, then one of the repo men gets an artificial heart and he ends up on the repo list. Despite that it was entertaining enough to keep me watching and then at the end of the movie my jaw dropped. I couldn't believe the twist they threw in there. I won't ruin it for anyone, but seriously my mouth was wide open.

Speaking of movies, computers, and the internet I've come across a huge problem when living in another country. Back in the states there are plenty of options to view video content for free, or if you choose to subscribe to Netflix you can watch a number of movies over the internet. Since I'm now overseas I have found that none of these options work anymore. Hulu, the network sites such as CBS, even Netflix which I have a paid membership, will not let me stream movies or TV shows over the internet. They all state that streaming is only available in the United States. WTF? I'm on a freakin' US military installation! All they are doing is forcing everyone to use alternative means to obtain shows and movies. Believe me there is no limit to the amount of shows and movies that get downloaded over here. It just sucks that there is no legal alternative that I have been able to find yet. That is not going to stop me from watching my favorite shows though…I'm just a week or so behind everyone else.

Back to work talk…today was pretty slow, well that might be an exaggeration…it was totally dead! I forgot to bring my iPhone to work, so I couldn't play any games. The entire time I was at work all I did was sit in a chair. I read the Stars & Stripes newspaper…every single story in the paper! The other guys were on the computer double checking work calendars for meetings and the occasional Facebook status check. I still do not have access to computers yet…pretty funny because I'm a 25B, an Information Technology Specialist who does not have access to the network yet. My sergeant did send me down to admin to check on everything. When I did the master sergeant down there is still convinced that she's going to have me move down there and switch positions with a sergeant that is currently on emergency leave. I don't know if it's just wishful thinking, or if there is any truth to it. She does seem pretty serious though. If I did move to the admin side I think I would do a lot more computer work and less of the stuff I do now. Which brings me back to the only job I did actually do today for our office. The KATUSA took me up to the conference room and showed me how to shampoo the rug. Exciting times we had, me and the KATUSA cleaning the entire conference room. I really was glad to be doing something other than sitting in a chair out of news to read. I was pretty amazed at how dirty and how black the dirty water was each time we changed the water out. I guess people have a lot of dirt on their feet coming in there.

We were off at noon again today and actually off for the rest of the week for the Christmas holiday. I walked back to the barracks and had a couple of PB&J sandwiches, then headed off to the gym for a little PT. This time we didn't really play basketball. I worked out a little on my core and my arms, then we played some 3 on 3 with some young Koreans that were there. They were not very good, so I just stayed in the key and blocked any of their shots if they dared get too close.

I was able to video chat with my wife and kids, then a little Rosetta Stone and some shows before bed. Sleeping in tomorrow, my roommate has left for the 4 day already. I'm looking forward to having the room to myself.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Guten Tag - (Korea) Day 21

A sign that cracked me up when I first saw it on post. 
Coming from AIT where we constantly called cadence this is a big change.

Last night I watched a cheesy movie "Vampires Suck". If you're a fan or have ever seen the Twilight series, it's parody of that along with a few True Blood and Vampire Diaries jokes thrown in. It's super cheesy and corny, but it did make me laugh a few times. Not a movie I would keep in my collection, but something I had been wanting to see for a while.

Today I woke up at 6:45 to give myself time to get ready and use my new little 4-cup coffee maker I purchased at the PX. I was able to brew a tiny pot of "Seattle's Best" coffee and have a cup before work at 8:00 AM! The only thing missing is sugar…and also a desk lamp. My roommate is working the later shift of the half days, so he sleeps in. I'm always running into things and dropping things because I can't see much of anything in the morning. I turn on my laptop screen, but it only does so much.

Work today was pretty boring, you can tell the holidays are upon us. As long as North Korea does not attack or do anything stupid I think the next couple of weeks will be very slow and boring at work. Today I cleaned the office refrigerator and microwave. After that our sergeant showed everyone Skillport, a way to earn promotion points by doing classes online. Most items in Skillport give you 1 promotion point for every 5 hours of course that you take. Each course shows how many “hours” it’s worth - depending on how well you know the subject you can finish them faster than the time stated. I was already very familiar with it because we had to use it and complete some I.T. courses while in AIT. Our sergeant wants everyone to be doing either online school or Skillport when we have downtime in order to better ourselves and advance our careers in the army. The only problem is that I still cannot get on the system here with my CAC card, I'm not setup yet. The lady that usually does it has been on emergency leave. I did turn all my paperwork for it today though because we found out there is another sergeant who can get me in the system. We'll see how long it takes, it will be nice to be able to get something done while at the office. Today all I did (besides the cleaning) was play a lot of solitaire and Plants vs Zombies on my iPhone.

We then had PT again after our half day at work. We went to the gym and played basketball. I was still pretty sore from yesterday, but we ended up playing a lot of half court games because we only had 8 people. We did play a few full court games when a few extra people showed up. It was a good workout, but not too much. I also wore my "tan tighties" which prevented yesterday's injuries. I impressed some of the guys from my office with my shot and also dunking a couple of times between games. I didn't know I had it in me still!

I got a call from University of Phoenix after work as well, I'll have another call with them in a couple of days. After that I think I'll start classes again on January 11th. I can't wait to get started again so I can finally get my degree! I decided to do a little Skillport as well while at home. I'm going to try and do an hour or so each night just so I can start racking up some hours. Our sergeant wants to see some progress. We can do pretty much anything, so I'm starting out with something I've wanted to brush up on for a while. I did the first lesson of Rosetta Stone: German. The army offers this language learning application free to all it's soldiers and it counts as promotion points as well. Our two Korean specialists were doing the Korean version while in the office…easy points since they know the language already....easy points for me too since I’ve taken quite a bit of German back in the day.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Army Ballin’ - (Korea) Day 20

SPC Roy took my phone and started taking some
pictures of himself making funny faces

Today was a a little different than normal days so far. I woke up at 4:15 AM to hurry up and leave for work by 4:45 AM. There was an early meeting to get setup for. After we were all done getting it setup, I was told we were to go back and get changed into civilian PT clothes to cheer SPC Short and SPC Roy on for their PT tests. Our sergeant scheduled a special PT test for both of them since they failed their previous test. He had to pull a couple favors to get an E-7 sergeant from the company to come grade them.

As I was on my way out of the office it was still dusk. I saw a soldier walking towards me. There is about a 90% chance here that he would be an officer so I stared at him intently and got my hand ready at my side. I saw him doing the same. We kept walking closer and closer. It looked like a scene from an old western movie where the two cowboys are getting ready to draw their guns and shoot. At about 6 paces I still could not see his actual rank, so to be safe I started to salute. The soldier coming towards me did the same. Both of us were in a half salute when he recognized that I was just a private....and I saw that he was a staff sergeant. We both laughed and kept walking.

We met in front of the gym and after waiting a bit, there was no SPC Roy. He ended up calling the sergeant and stated he just woke up...bad news for him. We went ahead with the PT test for SPC Short. He did fine on the push-ups and sit-ups, but unfortunately failed the run. For our two mile run test we run on the road around a baseball field for 4 laps. I didn’t actually run with them because I didn’t bring my road vest (I thought we were staying in the gym). We were all finished we were waiting for SPC Roy. The sergeant had told him earlier to meet us where we were doing the run test. He also told him to be in full battle rattle with his helmet, body armor, his rucksack filled with 50 lbs of gear, and two duffle bags filled with 50 lbs of gear each. It took him a while to get there, I guess because he had to pack all that crap. This whole time we had to stand outside and wait for him. I was starting to get cold. I thought we were just going to be in the gym, so I didn’t have a hat and only had shorts and a sweater on.

He finally arrived and instead of letting us go, the sergeant had to chew SPC Roy out for what seemed like an eternity. SPC Roy then had to stand in front of our small formation and apologize. Finally me and our KATUSA were allowed to sit in the car while the sergeant chewed him out some more with the rest of the E-4s. We finally all headed back to get changed and go back to work. SPC Roy had to go to work with all his gear and in full battle rattle. While in the office everyone that came in did a double take because there is SPC Roy doing his desk job in full battle rattle. It was actually a little funny watching this all take place...not funny that SPC Roy had to work in full battle rattle, but all the people’s looks and such.

Today I did not even touch a computer once again. Instead I had the privilege of helping our KATUSA and SPC Short clean the office. I guess we’ll be doing this the whole short week of half days. I used pledge on all the wood and Windex on the glass and windows. Tomorrow I hear I get to learn how to shampoo the carpet, I’m so excited...I just can’t hide it!

We all had to go to the gym after work, which we got off at noon as planned...surprisingly. Our PT today was basketball. We played along with some other folks from our building against another unit that happened to be in the gym already. We then just played anyone that came along. It was an awesome workout and we won all our games, but I think I overdid it. Not only was I physically exhausted, but (warning...I’m going to talk about my private area here) I was wearing boxers. I didn’t think much of it because when playing half court one-on-one with the sergeant everything was fine. Now running up and down the court playing full court basketball something horrible happened. At first everything was fine, but during the second hour of playing my balls were chafing against my legs. It got so bad I could barely run up and down the court. It felt like someone was rubbing sandpaper on my balls with each stride. Next time I’ll have to make sure everything is more secure by wearing my tan tighties they issued in basic. I could barely walk when we finished. I got back to my barracks and nearly passed out from near exhaustion.

After I ate a late lunch and showered I was able to video chat with my wife, kids and extended family. They decided to open Christmas presents early since they were all together. (The kids will be with their mom for this Christmas). I was able to watch them all open presents and talk with everyone via video chat. Sometimes technology is so awesome. It was so nice to see everyone, but it also makes me so homesick. I miss everyone so much. Video chatting is like giving a meat eater some tofu...it may satisfy them, but it will never fill that desire to bite into a nice juicy steak.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Korea) Days 18 & 19

The live band at “The Main Post Club”. The club was almost completely empty and the band sounded a little more like Karaoke. I should’ve taken a pic of the guy behind us...he looked like Woody Harrelson’s twin brother!
Saturday: Slept in this morning which was nice as usual. I did laundry and cleaned my room. I still had all the stuff I was issued from CIF all over the place. I could barely walk around. Now it's all either in my closet or under my bed. I was able to video chat with my wife for a long period of time which is always awesome. Being able to see your loved one just brings you that much closer to them than the sound of their voice alone.

SPC Short gave me a call and asked if I wanted to head out and check out the Seoul Harley Davidson store. Of course I said heck yea…it's always nice to get away from post for a while. We took a taxi out which cost about $5.00 and checked out both the Harley and the Victory motorcycle stores. There are some sweet looking bikes in there. It would be fun to ride, but I'd definitely want to get out of the city first…the people here are crazy drivers.

We then went to Outback steakhouse of all places to eat dinner on the way back. SPC Short was craving it. I'll have to check out the Korean food and the street vendors at a later date. We walked back which was interesting. There are a lot of people, a lot of stores, and a lot of vendors out on the street selling everything from boxers to food. When we got back we tried to go bowling, but there were no open lanes until 21:00, so we went to the nearest bar…"The Main Post Club". We had a couple of beers and watched the entertainment. There were three Korean girls singing pop hits. It was actually entertaining listening to them with their accents singing. When I first walked in I thought there was karaoke going on, but this was an actual band…lol. After a couple of beers we headed back "home". I checked my watch and it was 20:00…OMG I'm getting old when I end a night out this early!

I ended up watching "Daybreakers" on my laptop. It's a vampire movie with an odd twist, there are too many vampires on earth and not enough humans for them to drink blood from. The human race is going extinct. As a typical vampire movie goes, there is a lot of blood. It also goes into social issues such as how we treat the poor in our society and how government can resort to extreme measures and trample people's rights.

Sunday: I didn't do a whole lot Sunday. I was able to sleep in, do some shopping, and video chat quite a bit with my wife which was nice. I got called into work only to find out that the meeting was actually tomorrow. Now I have to be at the office at 5:10 AM tomorrow morning. That sucks! We do start half days tomorrow, so at least I will not be working until 5:00 PM…well that's the plan anyways. We'll see what really happens tomorrow.

I watched "The Social Network" which was a pretty interesting movie. For anyone that's interested in Facebook and how it got started.

Friday, December 17, 2010

EO - (Korea) Day 17

This was a picture on a slide in one of the meetings I was watching
(a quick google image search found this copy for me) It's very interesting
The photo is from space and shows both North and South Korea at night.
Since the Korean war the North's economy has floundered and the South's has thrived...
which can all be seen just from this photo alone!

This morning I had to head into work early so I didn't do any PT. I'll probably do a little this weekend and hopefully I'll have a normal schedule next week and do PT in the morning each day. We are supposed to start having half days next week because of the upcoming holidays.
This morning we had a meeting to setup in another building. While waiting for our escort in the waiting area I checked out a trophy case they had setup. They had a number of items displayed such as rifles, pistols, id cards, ration cards etc. from North Korean defectors. It was a pretty interesting display. When we got to the meeting to setup it seems the same scenario plays out every time. We have name tags that we place according to a seating chart. There are always last minute changes, certain people want to sit in certain places and it's always a big deal because these are all high ranking officers. Why they can't get it straight before hand I guess I'll never know, but it's always a rush to try and get everything setup correctly before the meeting actually starts. It just makes me laugh (on the inside of course) to see how people can blow even the simplest things out of proportion.

The day was pretty slow after that. I had to go through some mandatory "equal opportunity" training on my own, which consisted of going through some PowerPoint slides and then signing a paper stating I went through the PowerPoint slides. The guys in our office then had to put salt on the steps and driveway leading up to the front door because of the snow that had been coming down. It seems our office is kind of a jack of all trades office and we do stuff for the entire building.

I setup for a meeting in my conference room which was for the ROK army. They brought in two laptops and one of them didn't want to display on the screen. When I tried to take a look and offer some help, I quickly found out that there was no way I would be able to help at all because of course their Windows laptop was all in Korean! D'oh! Plus there are a number of Koreans here that don't know English very well at all, so trying to communicate with them can be challenging at times. (This is where the KATUSAs come in handy as they are required to know a minimum level of English) They ended up running and getting another laptop and it worked fine for them. I then just hang out during the meeting in case there are technical problems. In the middle of the meeting they were complaining that the microphones at the table were not producing sound. Everything was turned on and I couldn't find anything wrong with the system. After the meeting we found out that someone had unplugged all the microphones at the table itself. When we plugged them back in there was a bunch of feedback (I guess that's why they were unplugged). They are all plugged into a box underneath one of the tables in the room and I think people have just kicked it one too many times. SPC Short took a look and said it's beyond his ability, so we'll have to get a professional audio person in to take a look. Until then only the podiums will have microphones.

I got off work and headed home…lol strange that I call the barracks home now. My roommate had already left for the weekend. I talked to my wife via Skype for a bit and then watched "Faster" to wind down my evening. A movie with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson where he gets out of jail and seeks revenge on everyone who betrayed him in the past. A good action flick with some nice driving sequences.  In the middle of the movie I got a call from SPC Roy and was told we didn't have to go in tomorrow morning as we previously thought. Nice! There was a meeting scheduled for 7:30 AM on a Saturday which meant that we would have to be in at 6:30. Now we are just on stand-by in case they decide to have the meeting on Sunday. Depending on world events (a.k.a. North Korea's actions) we can get pretty busy here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hyundai! - (Korea) Day 16

A pic of the two buses that were given to USFK from Hyundai 
to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War 
(before the ceremony)

This morning was a little crazy. We went in to get a meeting all setup and there seemed to be a lot of miscommunication between departments on how it was supposed to be setup. It turned out getting SPC Short a little snappy and our KATUSA getting yelled at by him. In the end what happened was the brass attending the meeting didn’t communicate what they needed and at the last second told us. Not good, but you always have to keep the brass happy.

While hanging out in the office today a sergeant who had been on leave since I arrived came into our office. She works in the admin section which works closely with our office. She came in and saw me and asked who’s the new guy. She then found out I was a 25B and immediately she said she is going to take me and move me to her office. I guess they really need a 25B down there. I may actually work on computers if that does happen.

Later on a guy who works in the admin office asked if I could give him a hand picking up all the mail. I said no problem and we took off. He mentioned that he heard I was (or may be) moving to his office...lol. Funny how fast rumors spread...or maybe that sergeant has some pull. We drove a GOV (a government vehicle - Government Owned Vehicle). Every time we stopped somewhere the guy had to write down the time and the mileage. I guess the bean counters keep an eye on that stuff down to the minute.

The big deal of the day was that there was going to be a ceremony in front of our building. The Hyundai CEO and a bunch of their directors and such came rolling up in about 6 black sedans. Hyundai was giving the US Army Forces Korea two Hyundai luxury buses. This is the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korea war. The buses were a thank you to the US forces here for helping keep the peace and protect South Korea. During the ceremony I was in charge of directing traffic...making sure nobody tried to drive to where the ceremony was taking place. I was very glad that I had the chance to visit CIF yesterday and pickup all my cold weather gear. Even with the polar fleece , gloves and my PT beanie it was cold! Fortunately the ceremony didn’t last too long, just long enough for the CEO and General to exchange many thanks. All the people that came in the 6 sedans just had their drivers keep ‘em running with the heat on and when the ceremony was over, they walked very quickly to their cars and took off. It all lasted about a half hour. Just another day in the life of a 25B who didn’t touch a computer. I did get to wear a big shoulder band that made me look important though!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

CIF - (Korea) Day 15

My Katusa roommate and his buddy visiting 
getting ready to eat some yummy Korean delivery food

Last night my KATUSA roommate took me up on the internet for food offer. He ordered some Korean food and had it delivered. I enjoyed some chicken with some great seasoning with vegetables and side dishes as well. It was delicious. It’s making my mouth water just thinking about it as I write this.

As we were sitting on the floor of our room eating we discussed more about being a KATUSA. I found out that even though they make the same amount of money as their counterparts in the ROK army, they do get a lot of benefits and amenities that the regular soldiers do not get. Staying in this room with me for instance is one of them. The ROK soldiers barracks have 12 or so to a room and they share showers and bathrooms much like we had to in basic, only they have to for the entire two years they are in. The KATUSAs also get to go home each weekend on leave while their counterparts have to stay. So in a lot of ways they are the lucky ones.

This morning when I got to work I ended up holding a door for all the officers coming to a meeting. Each time an officer would come near I would have to stand at attention and after they passed I would go back to parade rest. Funny the things I find that I’m doing now as a 25B...I am now a doorman...lol

A little later on in the day I did my actual job for the position I’m filling. It’s a pretty simple job just making sure everything runs smoothly. I just need to figure out any of the troubleshooting steps for the times when something goes wrong.

I took a break at lunch and headed back to my barracks for the internet to get installed. The guys came right on time and had it up and running in a few minutes. Right after they left I had my wireless router up and running in a couple of minutes. We are now good to go...I called my wife via Skype and it was so nice to be able to talk to her without all the background noise. I think I’ll be getting my money out of this after all.

Today was “bring your gas mask to work day”. At 14:00 we heard a siren go off and at that time we had to strap on our equipment. This is basically a bag that has our gas mask in it. We wear it on our hips. We had to keep it on our hip for about 20 minutes. During this time we didn’t have to take it out or anything...we just had to wear it. Not sure what this accomplished, but I did it and it’s done.

I then headed out to CIF finally to pick up my gear that the base will be issuing me. Luckily I had Special K and SPC Roy drive me there and help me out. I was issued a whole crapload of equipment. In addition to the cold weather gear I’ve been waiting for, I also got everything from body armor to a rucksack. Pretty much everything I had in basic and then some! Once they gave it all to me we dumped it all out to make sure I had everything that was on their list. We do this because when it is time to leave and you return everything, you will have to pay for anything that you do not return. So it is very important to make sure the list of what they say they gave you matches what they actually did give you.

When we left all three of us had our hands full carrying everything I was issued. We stopped by my barracks to drop it all off before heading back to work. We got back just in time for our sergeant to say he wanted to bond with us all a bit, so it was off to The Navy Club for a couple of drinks. I work with some great guys who go out of their way to help out the team. Even though the actual job isn’t exactly what I expected, I’m glad I have the co-workers that I do.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gettin’ Internet - (Korea) Day 14

A view of the conference room we are in charge of. 
VIPs sit at the table, while the rest get the seats in the back.

Last night my KATUSA roommate came back and was asking me if I had an internet connection in the room. I told him no, but I had thought about getting one if I could split the cost with someone. I've heard that our only option for internet is $60 a month. He said he thought there were cheaper options, but that guys in the Korean army during their two year mandatory time in service they don't make much money. In fact they barely make anything. He is what is equivalent to the same rank as me (a PFC), yet he only makes about $70 a month. Holy Cow!! OMG!! Crap!! and all those other words of surprise!! I had no idea that they didn't make hardly anything. They do get a room and they do get to eat at the DFAC, but other than that they don't get much of anything. He said it's because it's mandatory that they don't have to pay hardly anything. I'm still in a little shock. I don't think I could ask him to give me half his monthly paycheck for internet. KATUSAs aren't allowed to have electronics (i.e. cell phones or laptops), but I think all of them do. I'm not sure how much they enforce that rule, or how much trouble they get in if they get caught.

This morning I woke up at 5:10AM to make sure I got up and got to the gym by 5:30AM. Our gym PT was a bit unique as far as my limited experience in the army goes. We started off putting on some boxing gloves and hitting the heavy bag. We would punch for a minute, then rest…another minute with rest and then finally a two minute session. I never knew how quickly you can get tired just by punching a bag. I think it may be good stress relief too. I also learned something new this time to the gym. They do have treadmills, they are just located upstairs which I didn't know existed until today. We then moved down to the basketball court next to the bleachers and did 4 sets of 25 dips and then some elevated push-ups. We moved into the weight room and did some training on our own. Finally we came out and sat on the wall just like I used to do back in junior high P.E. My legs still burned just the same. All in all it was a pretty good work-out.

Once I arrived to work this morning, we had to get everything setup for a meeting. Once we were all setup and I was about to leave, I was told I needed to help out in a little award ceremony they were going to have at the beginning of the meeting. So I ended up having to stand in front of everyone holding a framed scroll with a couple of coins in it until the 4 star general was ready to hand it to the awardee. At that point I handed it to the general and my work there was done.

We cleaned up after the meeting and setup for another one that was going on later. I then broke down and decided to get the internet in my barracks. I hate having to pay for this expensive internet here, but I think with school coming up soon and having a constantly available quality connection to use with Skype will be much better. I will also have more time if I don't have to walk back and forth to the food court each time I wanna use the Internet. Unlike back at Fort Gordon where there was a wireless network we could just join and pay for in the barracks, we have to sign up and have the internet installed in our rooms here. Very similar to what a person has to go through when they order the internet for their house. I made my appointment during lunchtime tomorrow.

My next stop was to the PX where I bought some speakers and a wireless router for my future internet. This will allow my KATUSA roommate to use the internet as well, I just have to figure out a good price for him to pay me. I wonder if he can bring me some Korean food from home when he has weekend passes??

When we arrived back to work it was pretty slow for the rest of the day. We were told that we all had to bring our gas masks tomorrow. I guess we're having a drill or something. Reminds me of the good ol' days in basic when the drill sergeants would throw CS gas in our formation. I wonder if there will be any CS gas tomorrow…hmmmmmm.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Potluck - (Korea) Day 13

A view from my table in the food court where I get my free WiFi

This morning I gave my body a rest and didn't work out since I did both Saturday and Sunday. I woke up and of course had my morning Starbucks with a bagel that I brought from my barracks. (Gotta save that money). I was able to Skype with my wife which is always nice. I may get frustrated with the program at times because if the network is busy the calls can drop and at times the voices can be delayed. It is awesome though for what it is. We can use it to talk to each other for free anywhere we have an internet connection. There are folks here who purchased Korean cell phones. They are paying $90 a month plus whatever the cost of the cell phone (anywhere from $100 - $200). They will not be able to use the cell phone when they leave the country. So being able to talk for free is nice, even if it has some minor complications.

When I arrived to work this morning all focus was on the upcoming holiday potluck. We had to move tables upstairs and get the conference room ready for a little awards ceremony that was going to go on before the potluck. Even though my job is a 25B (Information Technology Specialist) I haven't really even touched a computer since I've been here. I feel more like an office gopher than an I.T. guy. I'm not really complaining though because I've been working with computers for the last 15 years. It's kind of nice for a change to do something else. I do hope though that my next assignment is actually working on and fixing computers…or something to that effect.

During the award ceremony a few of us stayed in the command center for the conference room. (This is actually why my position is a 25B position. The command center has a few computers and a lot of audio/visual equipment). We stayed in there to make sure there were no technical difficulties. We found out that our door won 2nd place in the holiday door decorating contest. The command center is nice because if everything is running smoothly you can sit there and watch TV. When it was time to eat, all the officers got up and went through the line. Not being in the "real" army yet I thought this was normal procedure, but SPC Short got totally pissed off. He said in the normal army the junior enlisted always eat first. I think what made it worse is that all the food that was brought in was by the enlisted folks and not the officers (for the most part). It turned out fine though because there was plenty of food. I ate everything from pizza to turkey with mashed potatoes to some authentic Korean dish which was very tasty…just don't ask me what it was.

We then had to clean everything up and take the tables back down stairs. The rest of the day was very slow. So slow in fact that I didn't do much of anything. I was able to program all my co-worker's numbers in my issued cell phone. The only problem is that even though I've selected English as the language, there are still a number of items that come up in Korean. So I only use it to it's basic level.

A strange thing that seems to happen quite a bit is that I get saluted a lot by ROK soldiers inside the building. (The ROK soldiers salute each other inside or outside where U.S. soldiers only salute outside). Maybe they are saluting me because I'm old, because it's definitely not my rank. It could also be that they have the same issues I'm having in that I don't know their rank structure very well yet. Since there are also air force, marines, and navy here I just salute anyone that has anything shiny on them and that seems to work.

Tomorrow we are having gym PT as a unit at 5:30 AM. I think our sergeant wants to make sure the two specialists pass their PT test this time around.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Weekend Wrap Up - (Korea) Days 11 & 12

The pimped out bus in front of “The Navy Club”

Saturday morning was great. I was still alone in my room, even though the new roommate moved some of his stuff in he did not sleep here the night before. I slept in and woke up about 9:00 AM. I then went to my neighborhood Starbucks and grabbed a coffee and a bagel for breakfast before meeting my sergeant and SPC Short at the gym. Since SPC Short failed his last PT test, this "extra" PT was mandatory for him and since we are a team I had to come too. I rode a bicycle for about 45 minutes. When I got off I almost fell because my legs felt like jello. I guess they were on auto-pilot when I was on it. After resting for about 15 minutes the sergeant wanted to play some one on one in basketball. I would love to say I kicked his butt…I guess I'm a little out of shape and I haven't played in a long time. I won the first game (12-9), then he wanted to make it two out of three. He barely beat me (11-12) the second game and then beat me again in the third (10-12). I was totally gassed. A great workout though!

I then showered and had lunch in the food court where I talked to my wife via Skype. Had to take a little shopping trip at the PX to pick up some supplies. I'd like to get more food and such, so I don't spend as much going out to eat every day. I am not having the money taken out of my paycheck like most of the guys on base for eating at the DFAC which is good. Because of the various hours and duties of my job I can't make it to the DFAC all the time, so I got a waiver. Now I just have to be smart about how I spend my money. I bought a small coffee pot to brew my own coffee (now I just need coffee and a cup). I also bought some pop tarts to eat in the morning instead of bagels at Starbucks.

The rest of the day consisted of laundry and watching movies on my laptop.

Sunday morning…revenge is sweet. I went to the gym in the morning again, except this time we made it earlier because of the UFC fight that will be on later in the afternoon. I worked out my abs and chest, then our sergeant wanted to play basketball again. This time I beat him 12-4 and 12-6. I thought..this is going to be a good day!

After taking a shower I made my way to "The Navy Club". It's a restaurant with a bar and I was told they have a number of TVs that show AFN sports. It's actually pretty close to my barracks which is nice. I made my way in, sat down and ordered some food. I was a little early so I didn't think much when they had boxing on the TVs. After I finished my meal I asked them if they were going to turn the channel to the fight. The waitress went back and checked with the manager. To my surprise the manager actually came out and spoke with me. He said he is a huge UFC fan, but unfortunately they can't show the fights at the Navy Club because it's too violent. Are you kidding me? They have boxing on the TVs now, but UFC is too violent. We are in the military, we are all trained killers. I left in search of some place on post that had the fight on, but after checking every place I know...I was out of luck. That really sucks! I've seen commercial after commercial promoting the fight on AFN Sports all week and now I can't even watch it.

I ended up just walking to the commissary which has to be about 5 miles round trip. I picked up some supplies so I don't have to purchase fast food every time I need to eat. I had to make my shopping light though because I knew I had to carry every thing I purchased back to my room. I also had to get some dinner rolls which I was volunteered to bring to a holiday potluck tomorrow.

I then made my way to the food court to make use of their WiFi. I was able to talk to my wife which is always a treat. The rest of the night will consist of more movies and shows on my laptop and then hopefully going to bed early because I'm beat.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What is a KATUSA? - (Korea) Day 10

A photo I took of Seoul Tower from my barracks

Woke up this morning and planned on doing some cardio for my workout. I went to the gym which is right across the street from my barracks pretty much. This was the first time I've been in it, so of course I had to input all my info into the little machine at the door before I could go in. Once I was processed in, I went in search of a treadmill. Sadly the gym has no treadmills! They do have some bicycle machines and some elliptical machines, so I tried out the elliptical, which I don't really care too much for. I think weather permitting I'll just try running outside for my cardio days.

Speaking of the gym our sergeant said we all have to meet at the gym tomorrow on Saturday because two of our guys failed their PT test. Since we are a team we have to go in together. I didn't have anything planned and if we end up playing some basketball it could turn out to be fun.

The day started off pretty slow. The specialist that is training me (I can't keep calling him that…from now on his name is SPC Short) came in very late. He had to help out with a PT test I think. So during this whole time I just sat and read the newspaper at his desk.

The day was pretty slow. I was able to finish some online required training to get setup on the computer systems in the office. I was also able to turn in all my TA (tuition assistance) paperwork at the education office as well. I am now in the system and ready to start school. I should have a counselor contacting me within a week or two to get started. I can't wait, this has been a goal of mine for years and I have put it off for a long long time.

I had to find out a little more about the KATUSA today because I wasn't quite exactly sure how exactly they work out. A KATUSA is a Korean national that is in the ROK (Republic of Korea) army. It stands for Korean Augmentation Troops to the United States Army. They volunteer to be a KATUSA. I guess they have to take a test on their English and receive a minimum score in order to volunteer. All the volunteers are put in a database and chosen at random according to a ROK soldier I was talking to. A KATUSA helps out the US Army, they wear ACUs but with a Korean flag, and they report to the US commanders. Even though they report to the US commanders, they still attend ROK meetings and such. All Korean males have to serve in the military for two years and being a KATUSA serves this purpose as well. Our KATUSA seems like a nice kid. He's 22 and actually went to Ohio State University for his schooling. He works his butt off too!

The 11B (infantry) people stationed here at Yongsan started a drill today. They surrounded our office building with razor wire and closed most of the entrances and exits to get to the office. They setup a perimeter and then stood guard and checked everyone's IDs and bags. There are hummers and machine guns setup and they are all in full battle rattle. I saw them eating MREs for lunch. I heard they are going to do this for 24 hours straight. That sucks for them! It was raining when I left the office. They also closed a number of gates around the base for the drill, so traffic was pretty heavy trying to get to the couple of gates that were open.

The other specialist in our group (let's call him Special K) took our sergeant to a doctor's appointment today, but forgot to pick him back up. So at the end of the day the sergeant had him do some push-ups in the office…that was pretty funny. Special K is 40, so out of the junior soldiers I'm not the oldest! I was then given my first safety brief in my new unit. It consisted of SPC Short telling us to be careful this weekend especially if going off post. He made sure we all had each other's numbers in case something happened. Our sergeant then told the specialists to recite the NCO's creed. Then all four of us had to sing the army song and recite the soldier's creed. We didn't sound too good singing the song, so he had us do it again. The same thing happened with the soldier's creed…lol.

Now I'm at the food court using the free wifi before heading over to the movie theatre to watch The Tourist. Love that the movies here are free!!!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Happy Birthday Sucka - (Korea) Day 9

A view from "Google Earch" of where I work. The big parade 
field (in the middle) is Knight Field and the building behind is the building I work in.

Today I woke up and did my PT in my room. I did a bunch of push-ups and sit-ups. My plan is to do that on Tue & Thurs then run on Mon, Wed, & Fri. I was able to make it to the food court after getting ready and chat with my wife for a bit too via Skype.

I went to work and did a lot of waiting around today. The morning started off waiting near a conference room for a general to arrive. He was almost an hour and a half late. There were colonels, majors and all sorts of other brass just hanging around waiting. When you're a general though, people have to wait on you.

I then was shown more about the equipment I'll be responsible for. I was shown how to turn it all on and gave it try one time before we had to go. There is a lot of stuff, but I think once I get the hang of it that it won't be too difficult.

A young Korean KATUSA (the ones who are in ACUs and help out the army) had a birthday today. Me and the two specialists I work with ran around the base getting him a card and a gift certificate that some of the officers in our office put some cash in for. During our trip we ate lunch at a little Korean cafe on base. I was finally able to try some of this food I've been hearing all about. I ordered some sort of spicy pork and rice dish. I also sampled from a number of items one of the Korean specialists ordered. Everything was pretty good…and yes I did try kimchi and it wasn't bad.

Once we got back we had a little birthday celebration, after having to do 22 push-ups (his age) the young KATUSA was then taken outside and given a beating. I guess this is how it's done in Korea…lol. We didn't really beat him but all of us lined up and gave him a number of fake or soft punches. He was then told he could leave for the day (after he took the garbage out…lol)

The rest of us had to do a little more drill and ceremony. This was more of the corrective training from the incident a couple of days ago. We have had to go outside each day and do a bunch of marching around in this field. Today was a little different though. Out of the blue the sergeant told me to post (get in front of the group) and then lead everyone around. It seems pretty easy to do when you are just the one following the orders, but it's a bit tougher when you are the one calling the orders. You have to call things at certain times and be in the right place the whole time. After messing up a bit at first, I got the hang of it and was able to have my group do the basic movements.

I went to get a special ID card today that will be in addition to the additional one I had to get in order to get into the building I work in. I had to go with a navy gal over to another building and we arrived there only to find out that their special ID card making machine was broken…try again tomorrow. I guess I'll be heading back there tomorrow, but this time we'll call first to see if it's fixed.

An exciting day in my new life as a soldier in Korea. Now I'm at the food court using the free WiFi. Unfortunately there were so many people here that I was never able to make and keep a call going with my wife via Skype. That was frustrating. I guess we'll just try again tomorrow morning.

That's all for now…over and out

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

More In-Processing - (Korea) Day 8

Our office door at work...I used some of my arts and crafts
 skills to put on the finishing touches...my first job at my new post

Today I woke up with plenty of time to get ready at a leisurely pace. I then walked over to the food court and purchased a coffee from Starbucks and talked with my wife via Skype. So far the morning has been good, but I have to say the thought of going into work today almost made me throw up. I have been nervous as hell doing this job with all the brass around. It doesn't help either that I'm the only 25B (IT Specialist) there. That means no collaborating or backup for me.

I arrived to work 20 minutes early (don't want to be late and leave a bad impression). The day went much better than yesterday. We spent most of it doing in-processing. We walked from spot to spot on my checklist and had the people sign off on it. I was input in systems and I received gear. By the time I got back to the office I had my arms full of gear and paperwork. I was shown around where I will actually be working and what my responsibilities will be. My first task today was some arts and crafts! I helped decorate the office door for a Christmas contest. LOL.

I also had to read and sign a statement that said I cannot let out secret information or compromise any operations that are going on. This means I'll have to be careful about what kind of stuff I post here. I had planned on telling all about my job and what exactly a 25B does in the real army, but at least with this job at this post I may have to limit it to my feelings and more general things that are going on.

I had my initial counseling session with my NCO today. He is a sergeant (E5) and is a very cool guy. Really wants his soldiers to succeed and sounds like he'll do anything to help them do so. I think this guy will be a great guy to work for! He did however have to give us all some "corrective training" today. The specialist that was walking around with me showing me all the places to go, missed a very important meeting. There was a general involved so our sergeant was pretty much required to take some action. Since we are a team we all had to go out and do some push-ups as well as some marching around in circles (well squares really) for a while. Not too bad though really.

Speaking of push-ups I found out today that we are pretty much responsible for doing our own PT in this unit. This is great, I've always wanted to do my own instead of some of the stupid army PT that I've had to do in the past. I just have to make sure I'm responsible and do it each morning. One of our specialists said he hasn't done any in 2 months. He also failed his last PT test, so now the sergeant was on him a little more today. I haven't done much at all since leaving AIT, so I need to get back in action. I plan to do so tomorrow morning!

I went back to my room after work today and found my roommate was gone. He had completely moved out! I wonder if I snored or something. He seemed like a really nice guy and I thought we were going to get along great. (He was really quite which was perfect for me!) Well that means for now I'll have the room to myself…no complaints about that!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New Unit - (Korea) Day 7

My new unit badge and flash on my beret

Today started out very similar to yesterday except before we left to the DFAC for breakfast, we had to turn in all our linen and also bring all our packed bags down into a storage room. Once the bus took us to eat and returned us, we all grabbed our bags and loaded them on the bus, which then took us to the incoming soldier receiving center…the place where we get all our briefings. Today we had no shortage of briefings. There were so many that I didn't even try to remember all of them. The two that I do remember were the MWR briefing (all the fun and recreation that is provided) and the education center briefing (where we go to get our education on). After so many PowerPoints I think my brain just shut off.

After all the briefings they called a number of names and told them where they were going and a bus came and picked up a number of people. There were a handful of us left and one by one each person was called and told there was a person coming to get them. The private calling the names looked at me sitting there all alone and said "you're name hasn't been called yet?". I said no and showed her my orders. She asked me to wait in the break room with some others that were already in there. Finally a sergeant came and called off everyone's name (except mine and told them to get their bags and wait outside for their rides). I asked her about me and she looked up my name, then said "oh you get your bags and wait down there as well…SGT so and so will come and get you". So after waiting with my bags watching each person get picked up before me, the sergeant came over and asked me if I was still waiting……um yes…yes I am. She said she would call and make sure they were on their way. I still had no clue where I was even going.

Finally my sponsor came (a specialist whom I will be eventually replacing). He picked me up and drove me to show me where I'll be working. Turns out I'm going to be working with a bunch of generals and too many officers to shake a stick at. I'm not too excited about that. In fact I'm very nervous…almost to the point of freaking out a bit. I met so many people my head is spinning. There were a lot of people surprised that a PFC was going to be working in there, I guess they don't get a lot of Privates working in there…that doesn't help. I can't keep all the names and ranks straight. To make it worse I'm in a joint environment, so not only do I deal with army, I deal with air force and Korea forces as well. I may even deal with the navy too, I wouldn't be surprised.

My head is spinning, I was kind of looking forward to working with a number of other 25Bs in a shop or something, but instead I'm doing this. My sponsor had to tell me a couple of times to relax a bit, I guess my was looking a bit nervous. After this mini tour, I was taken to get my room assigned and also my unit patch and flash for my beret. We then dropped everything off in my new room. I have a Korean roommate (there are a number of Korean's who are in the army helping out the US on post). This is going to be so much better than rooms with 4 to 12 people in them. We have our own bathroom and the guy seems like a quite person. Perfect! I had to run to the PX and pick up all new linen because it is not issued for barracks people. There is an unexpected expense…grrrrr. When I got back to my room I unpacked and settled in a bit. That felt nice. We have a refrigerator a microwave and plenty of space for the two of us. This is going to be so much better than my previous living arrangements since I've been in the army. The only bummer is that there is no wireless internet available. We can call and order an Ethernet line put in, but it is pretty expensive (around $60 a month I hear). So for now I'll just keep coming to the food court and using their free wireless internet.

My new bed....what’s that??? ....a Seahawk on my 
comforter? Why yes it is! I found this lonely comforter 
all the way in Korea a long long way from home.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Death by PowerPoint - (Korea) Day 6

Last night I knew I had to get up and be in formation at 5:50 AM. I had a wonderful plan all set. I went to sleep at 9:00 PM and had my alarm set for 5:00 AM giving me plenty of time to get ready. I had my headphones in playing white noise and I had my beanie pulled over my eyes. Everything was going swell until about an hour into going to sleep all of a sudden the light flips on and people are talking very loud and even bumping my bed. WTF? Surprise we just got two new roommates! They had to pack all their stuff in their lockers, make their bed and then get changed to go to sleep. I know it's not their fault that they came in late, but they were noisy as hell. There were also people going up and down the hall making all kinds of noise. Grrrrrr. So much for my plans. After what seemed like forever they finally turned off the light and went to sleep.

This morning I tested the water and we still do not have any hot water in the barracks. No shower for me this morning I guess. I'll have to do a quick one tonight washing all the essential areas as quickly as possible. We were bussed to the DFAC and I ate my first meal there since arriving here. I can tell you that this is the worst DFAC I've ever had in my limited experience so far. The place seemed dirty and the food was barely edible. I wasn't missing much not eating there. So far I've ended up buying every meal I've had here, but I'll have to change that soon. Once I get settled into a place I plan on eating primarily DFAC food.

Today was a day of briefings. We had briefings on sexual assault, sexual harassment, religious services, and housing. Why those of us that will be living in bachelors quarters had to sit through a housing brief I have no idea. We were also given more inspectable items. This means they are part of our uniform while we are here in Korea. I have to carry around a SOFA card (you show this to Korean police if you ever get into trouble and they call the MPs). I also have to carry around a couple of other cards in case I get sexually assaulted.

We had a break for lunch (Pizza Hut), then back to more briefings. This time there were so many that they ended up being kind of a blur. A briefer would come up and and do their thing. As soon as they were done they would tag team the next person and so on. It was literally one after the other. From what I can remember we had the "How to stay out trouble brief", JAG, finance, family assistance, other family programs, domestic abuse, child abuse…and more. The day of briefs ended with the substance abuse brief. This one was actually kind of interesting because we heard a few stories of when people had a little too much to drink here in Korea and what happened to them. We also saw a lot of funny pictures and a video of drunk people (the kind that circulate the internet and failblog). This had everyone laughing, but it was to drive home a point that soldiers need to know when they have had enough to drink. She ended it on a very gross note that I have to share because it was that bad. She said that anything that alters the mind of a soldier is against the rules and we can be punished for it. Then she gave an example of what they have found some soldiers doing. I guess it's called the "juice box" or something like that. A soldier will poop and pee in a bottle and seal it. They will let it ferment for a while and then capture the gases it creates in a balloon. When they inhale the contents of the balloon they get a high from it. Very gross! We were told that is against the substance abuse rules because it altered their minds (got them high) even though they weren't using illegal drugs to do it. No worries lady, I will not be doing anything remotely close to that! We were then dismissed for the day.

Right before we were allowed to leave though a sergeant said that everyone in area II will need to be packed and ready to go tomorrow. I asked him if he could check where I was because my "pinpoint orders" didn't have an area on them. After checking he said I was in area II. Finally I have at least a little more of an idea where I'll be. I still have no idea what unit I'll be with, but now I'm assuming I'll stay here at Yongsan. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

I found my wife was still awake, so I spoke with her a bit on Skype using the food court's free WiFi. Now I have to go pack my bags for tomorrow's move.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Weekend Wrap-up - (Korea) Days 4 & 5

Gyeongbokgung Palace during our USO field trip

My First Weekend in Korea

It's Saturday and I slept in. When I decided to wake up, I made my way to Starbucks with my laptop and made use of the free WiFi on base. While enjoying my coffee I was able to get ahold of my wife and make a Skype call. This was the first time I was able to actually talk to my wife which was very cool. There were a few hiccups, but all in all it worked out very well. I was able to talk to her for a while and then I took off to the movie theatre. I ran into a guy here that was in my platoon from basic and we headed out to check out the theatre. The movie theatre here is free for active duty…how cool is that! We watched "The Town" with Ben Affleck. Right as we walked in some music started playing and everyone stood up. We were wondering what the heck was going on, then quickly realized they were playing the South Korean national anthem, then they played the U.S. national anthem. Back to the movie…it was a fun show to watch…lots of bank robbing action. We enjoyed it and then with our stomachs growling, we looked on the map of the base for the nearest DFAC. The only one we could find was about as far away from the movie theatre as you can get. We decided to swing by the Pizza Hut on the way back to the barracks instead. The rest of the day consisted of watching a show on my laptop and then a movie on my laptop (Prince of Persia). A pretty laid back easy going day. I was thinking about taking a shower, but I don't think the army paid the heating bill. During this last week we had nice hot showers, but now there is no hot water at all. It really sucks. We also have no heat in our room, so at about 1 or 2 in the morning it gets pretty cold. There is a sign on the heater in our room that says "when lever is down heat is on, when lever is up heat is off". It doesn't matter if it's up or down, nothing comes out.

Sunday morning I woke a little earlier than planned. I had my alarm set for 7:00 AM sharp, but to my surprise at 6:40 I hear an alarm going off…but it's not mine…and it's not stopping. One of our roommates set his alarm, but left for a morning run and his alarm was just going off in his locker. No worries though because I was ready to get up anyway. After I got ready I took off to the Starbucks across the street for a coffee and a bagel. Then I made a quick Skype call to my wife. It's always nice when I can hear my wife. I then took off to the meeting place where we were all supposed to be at 8:40. At 9:00 a guy came out and asked if we were all here for the tour. Ummmm yes. So we followed him out of the gate and boarded a bus.

I was now officially on the USO city of Seoul field trip. Our tour guide was a Korean lady who had a difficult name, so she said to call her Sunny…"you know like a sunny day". The first place we took off to was a stream in the middle of Seoul. I guess the stream had been covered over in the past and in recent history the pavement was removed and the stream has been restored with a walkway on each side. I believe the stream was called Cheonggye or something like that. It's in the middle of a city street and is quite nice.

We then walked to Gyeongbokgung Palace. This place was pretty neat. We arrived just before the changing of the guards, so we were able see the entire ceremony. Our tour guide then walked us through all the parts of the palace such as the throne, the entertainment hall, the sleeping quarters of the king and queen and more. It was pretty interesting seeing everything, walking through a place that so many years ago was the home of a king. We then visited a folk museum before heading out.

After we all boarded the bus and took off the tour guide realized that we were missing one person. The bus actually did a u-turn in the street. There wasn't quite enough room to do the u-turn so the bus had to back up and go forward a few times before it was able to make it. All the time cars are passing by…not something I think you would see in the U.S. I'm not sure why we just didn't go around the block. We arrived back at the palace and the tour guide and a sergeant got off and started looking for the missing guy. After about ten minutes they came back with him. Then we all got to hear about the importance of being back at the meeting place at the correct time. (um…we all were, it was just the guy who they went and found that should have been getting this lecture).

We then went to another museum and then headed out to a Korean ginseng company to finish the tour. The ginseng company let us try some ginseng tea, ginseng candy, and about every other ginseng product you can imagine. I tried everything they had out to sample. They even had ginseng wine I would have liked to try, but unfortunately there were no samples of that. Some folks even bought ginseng cigarettes.

After that we were brought back to the base and dropped off. My biggest surprise...there are a lot of Starbucks coffee shops in Seoul. Not only that, but there are a lot of coffee shops in general. Not as many as I’m used to in Seattle, but still very respectable!

I took off back to the barracks to grab my laptop and head off to the food court. I got a haircut with a head massage (I think I can get used to that). Then it was time for lunch/dinner in the food court with free WiFi and a little Skyping with my wife.

The King's Throne at Gyeongbokgung Palace